Why Women Are Having More Strokes and How the Warning Signs Are Different from Men’s

Women really have it rough when it comes to our physiology—I mean, they menstruate once a month, have to carry and birth a child, and now, apparently, females also seem to have more strokes than men do.

First of all, let’s talk about what a stroke even is. A stroke is essentially an attack on your brain and occurs when the blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. During a stroke, brain cells don’t get the oxygen they need and start to die, which affects the area of the brain such as memory and muscle control.

Each year nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke. It looks different in everyone—some people experience minor strokes and may only experience temporary issues such as some weakness in their arm or leg. When a more serious stroke occurs, it can cause more permanent damage and cause someone to become paralyzed on one side of their body or even lose the ability to speak. Pretty scary.

There are many symptoms that could identify a stroke. One of the most common stroke symptoms is having trouble speaking or understanding what’s being said. The person may be acting really confused or slur their words when trying to speak.

Anther common stroke symptom includes paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg, typically on one side of the body. Sometimes, if it’s happening on your face, one side of your mouth may droop if you were to try to smile. You might also experience issues with your eyesight—your vision may go blurry or you may even black out. You may start to get a headache or experience fuzziness or dizziness.

Lastly, a stroke can cause someone to have issues walking. They might lose their balance easily or stumble when trying to stand.

Symptoms typically differ between men and women, not to mention stroke kills more women then men. In fact, stroke is the third leading cause of death in women and the fifth leading cause of death in men. About 55,000 more strokes occur in women each year.

So why are women getting the worst of strokes?

While the risk factors for stroke are similar no matter what your gender—high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol—health experts say there may be more unique risk factors for women, including their blood and headaches.

Women are more at risk for headaches and migraines than men are—plus migraines with aura (when you get a warning before you get the headache) are sometimes associated with having a stroke.

Women go through hormonal changes through things like pregnancy, menopause, or if you take supplemental hormones, all of which changes your hormones. This can cause blood clots to fill up in the body and go to the brain.

Because men don’t experience strokes in the same way, the presentation of the stroke can be different. Women might experience a more subtle type of stroke, whether it’s simply experience some weakness or numbness on one side of the arm. Sometimes they might experience walking a bit off balance, almost like they’re drunk.

It could be so subtle that you might not even realize it’s happening, but experts say it’s important to know your body and get help if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

To learn more about the different ways women experience stroke than men do, check out the video below.

Did you know that women have more strokes than men do or that the warning signs are different?